~Since 2004~
A site about memories, thoughts, photos, and unrepentant opinions about motorcycles and motorcycling after four decades of twisting the throttle.

Thursday, December 24, 2009

Merry Christmas!

Yes, we do get snow in the desert here in Arizona, not often but it does happen. Above is a shot of the Superstition Mountains east of Phoenix a couple of years ago. Click to see the larger image.

Merry Christmas to all of my twelve regular readers. If you can't go for a motorcycle ride on Christmas Day then do the next best thing and spend time with friends or family and eat lots of things that are bad for you but tasty.

- Doug

Friday, December 18, 2009

Bereft Of Ideas I Shall Take The Easy Way Out

...and post a couple of pictures from a 2008 charity run.
Yipes, Stripes!

Imo's Bike

(click to see the full size images)

Wednesday, December 09, 2009

Volkswagen and Suzuki Do The Deed

I don't usually comment much on the motorcycle news stuff, there are other blogs that specialize in that so why duplicate the effort? However, Volkswagen AG and Suzuki Motor Corp. announced today that VW are buying a chunk of Suzuki and since I spent the best part of three decades laboring in the trenches for VW in the USA and once or twice have owned a Suzuki motorcycle I am then, of course, perfectly qualified to comment on the VW+Suzuki tie up -- or at least more qualified than most of the dunderheads who leave comments in various automotive forums and news sites.

The "Why?" of the VW purchase most likely has to do with VW's desire to use Suzuki's strong presence in the Asian and Indian markets to VW's advantage and to leverage Suzuki's small car (low cost) expertise. What Suzuki gets is some expertise in how to build a car with an interior that isn't crap plus assorted other technological insights. I could offer more thoughts on all that, even rant a little, but this is a motorcycle blog, not a car blog.

I doubt that the motorcycle aspect of Suzuki's business holds any significant interest for VW beyond the fact that some of VW's top management, including Dr. Ferdinand Piech, who are motorcycle enthusiasts could more easily get Suzuki motorcycles, probably for free. Since Dr. Piech is a billionaire and owns a chunk of Porsche SE, getting free motorcycles may or may not be important to him.

I believe Dr. Piech is a Ducati fan and the other VW people of various levels that I have talked with over the years seem to prefer either Ducati or Japanese sport bikes. Those home grown BMWs seem not to be favored when I've brought them up and still retain their slang name "Gummikuh" or "rubber cow" to the folks with whom I've spoken. Now, BMW have moved well beyond their "rubber cow" handling and performance days but I believe the perception that the Japanese and Italians make better performance bikes still persists. The new BMW S1000RR sport bike may change that though.

Dr. F. Piech, Chairman of the Board of VWAG ponders
the hidden benefits of buying 20% of the Suzuki Motor Corp.

So don't look for a VW badged motorcycle any time soon or a Suzuki cruiser with a VW engineered 1800cc TDi diesel V-twin engine in it either. I wish it were going to happen because VW has a great sales and lease programs for it's employees and retirees and I'd love to be able to get a new bike every year without actually having to buy and sell the darned things myself at my usual huge loss.

Monday, December 07, 2009

Gettin' Old Ain't for Sissies

The title of this entry is a quote from my old friend Keith. He's a few years ahead of me on the highway of life and I think we're having a race to see who's body falls apart first and I think I'm winning.

The poor Kaw 900 has been sitting for three weeks now while I have once again been brought up short in my meanderings by something called adhesive capsulitis, or as we laymen call it, a screwed up shoulder. In short, I have not been able to bend my right arm around behind me enough to put on a jacket let along heft on my old fashion heavy weight leather jacket.

Right in the heart of the best Fall riding weather I can't get my leather jacket on, even putting on a windbreaker is painful. Oh, I could get the leather jacket on if someone pushed my arm far enough around for me but then I'd have a hard time getting on the bike when I was passed out on the floor from the pain. A few years ago I had the AC thing in my left shoulder and got over it with a trip to the doc, a needle full of cortisone in the shoulder and a few weeks of some self-inflicted and painful physical therapy. Working on curing the right shoulder now but in the mean time the bike sits. One more trip to the doc next week and I'm going for a ride no matter what. It sucks getting old.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

The Cool Factor

Everyone, whether they admit it or not, wants to look at least a little cool on their bike. We all know deep down in our little gasoline powered hearts that we do not look like Steve McQueen on his Triumph 650 or "Chino" from the movie "The Wild One" but we do hope we don't look like a complete noob paddling away from stop lights or dropping the bike in our own driveway.

About four weeks ago now the Mrs. took our one and only car and headed off to points East and South to visit with relatives living and dead (she's into genealogy). That left me with the Kawasaki 900 as my main transport and the wife's all white Honda Helix "chick scooter" for grocery runs. With the Helix's rear storage compartment and the big top box I can get a lot of ice cream, Hostess Twinkies, and TV dinners home from the grocery store while the official cook is gone, way more than the Kaw will haul.

Being astride the all white Honda scooter makes me feel a bit old...and well, dorky. I gave up trying to be cool long ago but no one wants to look or feel dorky. I suppose it goes back to my formative years as a motorcycle rider when only the school nerds and dorks rode "step through" scooters while we "real motorcycle guys" rode 80cc Yamahas.

In the here and now there are several other 250cc Honda Helixes (Helices?) around our little town, all ridden by gray haired old men. At this point in my life "old" is anyone more than a day older than I am. I admit that riding around town on the Helix does not fit my self-image as a "motorcycle guy" nor boost my testosterone level.

photo by whisperwolf
I was heading through town on the all white girlie scooter when some bad hombre on a chopped down, matte black with pinstripes, ape hanger'd Harley complete with dual fishtail pipes, an old style foot clutch and jockey shift, blew past me. He was decked out in his best ratty black jeans, wife beater t-shirt, no helmet, and packing a sidearm in the open.

I rolled up behind Mr. Bad Hombre in the turn lane to wait for an opening in the traffic and as I putt-putted to a stop he messed up with the foot clutch of his mean machine, stalled the engine, and almost dropped the bike.  >wobble, tip<  foot shoots out to catch it before he tumbles over like a total noob. 

After he regained his balance and started to move out I saw him take a quick look back right at me. I tried not to smirk. Yeah Mr. Bad Dude, I saw you, you messed up your cool right in front of the bespectacled old guy on a chick scooter, one of the "citizens" your whole bad boy bike and outfit was supposed to impress.

I'd have thought nothing of the incident if it was a guy on a Gold Wing or an Electra-Glide or most any bike because everyone messes up once in a while, but when riders, be they faux bikers or sport bike squids, try so hard to put on their "look" and "attitude" then any slip up just comes off as funny.

Friday, November 06, 2009

Heavy Metal

I've rolled up 700 or 800 miles on the Kawasaki 900 now, about half that just noodling around the local area and about 300 miles on a ride with friends up to Roosevelt Lake a week or so ago. The 900 Kaw does a nice job of getting me around and is generally a solid ride which is what I expected. If it had another 10 hp, a slightly softer ride, and less wind buffeting from the bottom of the windscreen it would be a fine bike for a long trip.

On a jaunt south down Interstate 10 a week or two back I spied off to the west what I took to be an old steam powered tractor. Since I was moving about 75 mph on the Interstate and in traffic I only got a quick look. I'd been down that way countless times but had never noticed the old tractor before. I made a mental note to take my camera and go back soon for another look. Like most guys that love motorcycles I find all sorts of other noisy mechanical stuff of interest too and the old machinery from yesteryear, especially the steam powered heavy equipment, is always an attention getter.

Today after lunch I grabbed my camera and headed off back down I-10, jogged off to the side road about where I thought I'd seen the tractor, and motored along with the freeway on my left and an older, more run down or run out area of roadside businesses on the right. I finally came to the tractor not far from Picacho Peak and pulled up by the wobbly chain link fence and gate separating me from my goal. The area is a bit rough looking and there was an emphatic "No Trespassing" sign on the fence so I didn't try to get closer than the zoom lens would let me.

The tractor turned out to be a steamroller of some vintage which I'd take to be maybe the 1920s. The steam part seemed to not be steam though, there was an in-line internal combustion engine where I'd expect to have seen the firebox for a boiler but the rest of the tractor fit the lines of a steam engine.

A close look at the gingerbread trim around the top of the "smoke stack" and elaborate but badly faded painted and heavy painted trim indicated that this tractor was clearly a stylish and impressive machine at one time. In our utilitarian society there is no budget or inclination to make heavy equipment also a thing of beauty. Even sitting and fading away in the desert in Arizona the old steamroller still had a strong presence the way only eight or nine tons of vintage cast iron and steel can.

I'm not sure about the maker of the tractor, I didn't get close enough to see a data plate or be able to get zoomed in on one with the camera. Since I'm not real knowledgeable about antique heavy equipment I thought maybe one of you Harley guys out there would know who made the great yellow beast by the roadside. (Sorry, couldn't resist.)

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

A Revolving Garage Door?

2007 Kawasaki VN900 Classic LT
I should put a revolving door on my garage for the bikes that come and go. The previous '03 Kawasaki Concours was a great bike but the wrong one for me this particular time, or so I adjudged.

I've been casting about looking for something interesting, something that would entertain to some degree on the shorter rides I mostly do these days. I toyed with the idea of a Harley, even thought about customizing it, but deep in my heart I knew that the rougher ride of the Sporty would not be acceptable to a body that is now paying me back for decades of abuse.

I thought perhaps another "airhead" BMW would be fun, some of the best rides of my life were on older BMWs when they were new, but the airheads I found that I'd seriously consider buying were too far away and a fly-'n-ride or bike shipment wouldn't fit the budget. In the end I settled on another V-twin bike mostly for the nice sound that a v-twin makes: It is real auditory entertainment of the best sort and something no iPod can equal.

Outside the Robles House, built in 1881, Florence, AZ. Needs paint and a bit of work.
I grabbed another Kawasaki Vulcan (stupid model name), this time the VN900. I've had the 1500 Drifter and the 1600 Classic in days gone by and this time I downsized mostly because of budget constraints but also because I'm growing weary of wrestling larger bikes.

A previous owner bought the 900, found that riding wasn't his cup of tea, and sold me the '07 900 Classic LT with just 6600 miles on for $4300. The seller was asking a bit more than $4300 but the bike had been dropped once scraping the front fender so some money needed to be deducted for a new fender. I wasn't going to spend the next six months explaining to everyone that saw the bike that it was the PREVIOUS owner that did it, not me. Also, my clean and orderly bike fetish was not going to be able to endure an obviously scratched front fender either. The new fender has been secured and the old one now hangs on the wall in the garage with a silver Sharpie note scrawled on it saying "I didn't do this." I've dropped bikes before but I'm not taking the razzing from my riding pals for this one.

I found out after I bought it that the bike still has an extended warranty on it to 2011 and that was a pleasant surprise. Buying a used bike is always a roll of the dice when it comes to problems and having a bit of factory warranty left eases the mind.

Car & bike gathering. Scottsdale, AZ. This is not a motorcycle but I like it a lot.
I've been riding the Kaw around a bit, including the regular Saturday night car and bike gathering up in Scottsdale, AZ. It's riding season now here in central and southern Arizona, completely backward from most of the country, and the nice cars and bikes are out in force. I've put about 500 miles on bike wandering about taking photos, and visiting friends. The 900cc engine lacks the punch of either the 1500 or 1600 Kaw but that's no surprise, just something I miss a little. So for now, the new/used Kaw will serve it purpose, probably at least through this riding season. Then we'll see if I win the lottery next Spring and can buy something snazzier which I'll then keep for six months and sell too.

I'm not hard to please, I just have a short attention span.

Sunday, October 11, 2009

A Walk Through An AZ Motorcycle Swap Meet

Every year there is a motorcycle swap meet at the county fairgrounds about twelve miles from where I live. For some reason I've never gone so this year I vowed to make it to the event. Motorcycle swap meets are great fun, full of interesting people, and with so much bike junk around there is lots of fodder for photographs.

The gathering this year at the fairgrounds was billed as "Arizona's largest motorcycle swap meet." Compared to the mega meets I see pictures of from other parts of the country this one is pretty minuscule. Still, there were some interesting tidbits and a wider range of bike clubs than we usually see at the annual vintage bike meets.

I came within an inch of buying a '57 Sportster engine cover with some engraving. The part was well used, not expensive, would have looked great on the wall in the garage just as a piece of vintage motorcycle art, but in the end I let it go by. Sort of sorry now that I did.

Motorcycle people make great photographic subjects if you can get them to let you take the photo. Since a good many of the people at the meet today were from 1% clubs or close to it, I didn't take too many people pictures. Actually, I took none. Someone told me once that in a crowd of bikers I looked like a cop. Geez, there's a warm and fuzzy thought. I've never forgotten that and it's probably true, I'm too mainstream to ever "look like a biker" and if I tried I'd probably look like a cop trying to look like a biker.

I'm not a cop, by the way, although I've known a few over the years same as I've known some...uh...not-cops. In the end I'm big on live and let live. I don't mess in other people's business as long as they stay out of mine. Regardless, pointing a large DSLR camera at people has a way of stiffening them up and spoiling the photo. I thought my red Bultaco hat maybe eased my straight-laced appearance a little, seems to work ok at the vintage meets, but with todays crowd I was definitely an outsider at what appeared to me as much a social gathering as a swap meet.

Unloved: Suzuki GSXR carbs for sale at a mostly Harley swap meet. Yeah, I know how they feel.

I've noticed when I look through my pictures and the ones that the the Mrs. shoots that she tends to shoot pictures of people while I shoot pictures of bikes and parts. I mentioned to her today that she should try to avoid taking pictures of people without asking, especially taking pictures of the "colorful" vest or jacket art. She comes off as a lot more innocent looking than me; she told me she kept pointing her camera at some guy with a three pigtail beaded beard and he kept throwing up his arm to cover his face. "He really looked like a character!" Hint: He doesn't want his picture taken. He has his reasons. I'd have probably gotten my lights punched out for that. The innocent look has it's advantages.

I walked up to one group today out in the parking lot, didn't even have the camera up, and half of them got up and walked away before I got much past "Hi." Not even people with colors, just camera shy, I guess.

Perfect match.

Here's more pictures from today's excursion:

AMF Harley. Ah, the good old days when you could buy a matching bowling ball to go with your Harley. Oh wait, you still can.

A David Mann fan

A little paint, some Armor All on the tires, and it's ready for Craig's List as "mint condition."

Modern retro out in the parking lot. Very nice!

From what I see at the bike gatherings and on-line the days of the stretch out, swoopy chopper are over. Hooray!

Wanna go postal?

My vote for one of the coolest bikes there. I didn't get to meet the owner, the bike was just out in the parking lot. Clearly the guy was proud of his days as an Army Ranger, as well he should be. Nice, nice, clean, machine.

Friday, October 09, 2009

Bonneville World Finals 2009

Yes, more stuff from the Bonneville Salt Flats, partly because I like it and partly because I'm too lazy to blog anything else at the moment.

The "World Finals" are the last event of the Bonneville season so I thought I'd toss out a picture and a link. The picture is from "Seldom Seen Slim" who is reporting semi-hourly right from the Salt Flats courtesy of a Verizon AirCard. If you've a mind to see more pictures of the variety of bikes that run at a Bonneville event and also read through the running commentary the link to Landracing.com is here.

Two more pictures courtesy of SSS:

Not everyone races stretched out, missile shaped race bikes that don't look like bikes.

Tom Liberatore ran his M/PG 750 class Moto Guzzi to a new record of 138.280 mph

...and your basic double engine Harley

Tuesday, October 06, 2009

Update: The Worlds Fastest Motorcycle

I love to go fast and nearly every bike I've ever owned I've pushed to it's top speed at least once. My Yamaha TW200 with the smaller rear sprocket will top at at 62 mph. Woosh!!! When I got the chance to drive fast cars home from work I'd usually try to make at least one top speed blast before I had to give them back. I only ever got to drive one car that I couldn't/wouldn't wind all the way out on a public road and that was the Bentley Continental Fly Spur. 186 mph on a public road didn't seem wise unless the car was dialed in a little closer than usual. I won't admit in writing what speed I did get the big Bentley up to but I did scare the crap out of my son. Imagine a motorcycle that's just at half throttle at 186 mph. Here's what bike going 370 mph+ looks like:

Thursday, September 24, 2009

The Worlds Fastest Motorcycle

photo by "Seldom Seen Slim", proprietor extraordinaire of landracing,com

The happy folks in the photo above are celebrating a new land speed record for motorcycles. At the Bonneville Salt Flats today the Bub Seven motorcycle streamliner driven by Chris Carr ran a two way average speed of 367.382 miles per hour* with a fastest timed speed during his first run of 372.742 mph.

I've followed land speed racing on and off since I was a kid and the absolute balls out, go for it ethos combined with science and engineering still amazes and impresses me no end. Science and engineering will only get you so far because in the end someone with a lot of guts and huge skills has to strap in and go faster on a motorcycle than anyone has ever gone. Chris Carr definitely falls into that category.

During the Bonneville meet this week I've been following the event via up to the minute postings over at the premier web site for land speed racing, LandSpeedRacing.com. Gotta love those cellular modems! Pay a visit to the site if you want a peek into what it takes to go really, really fast in a straight line with a car or a bike. Lots of cool pictures too, of course.

One of these years I need to make it to Bonneville and see it all in person. I've stopped at the site while passing through but that's not the same as being there and hearing cars and bikes run 200 - 400 mph. Gotta hear that some day.

*pending FIM ratification

Update: A few photos I shot in 2007 of the Bub Seven at the Cycle World Show in Phoenix that year:

Motorcycle or jet aircraft cockpit?

I talked with Dennis Manning at the 2007 Cycle World Show in Phoenix. I asked him if he had any regrets about not being "able" (polite choice of words) to drive the BUB 7 himself. He replied fairly emphatically "No. I learned a long time ago with Cal Rayborn and the old streamliner that at this level of competition you have to have the very best people for everything, the very best at what they do, and Chris Carr is the best."

Dennis Manning handing out posters at the '07 Cycle World Show. He is an unassuming looking man who conceived the fastest motorcycle in the world. I spoke to him for a little while and got the impression that he was a fellow who's mind and inventiveness never rests.

The basic shape of the streamliner is said to have been inspired when Manning was watching a salmon effortless hold it's place in a stream of rushing water.

Then engine is a dual overhead cam, 16v, fuel injected, turbo charged V-four built specifically for the Bub Seven, hence it meets the rules requiring "motorcycle engines only" for power.

Sunday, September 20, 2009

Hi, I'm Doug, And I'm A Bike-aholic

I'm sure my wife is beginning to think I'm insane. My neighbor Dr. Jim, the psychologist, is probably taking notes on my motorcycle ownership behavior for some future conference speech to be entitled "Abnormal Motorcycle Ownership Behavior In The Mature Adult Male" with yours truly as "Subject A." I blame it all on my very early childhood: I was one of those babies in the 1950's who chewed the lead paint off my crib. Dain bramage, that's what it is.

Anyway, in a moment or week of whimsy, madness, or just another manifestation of my short attention span with any given motorcycle I sold the '03 Kawasaki Concours I bought a few months ago.

When the Concours arrived at the palatial 40on2 estate the bike was mechanically very solid and decently cared for. It had lots of farkles added by the previous owner and really only needed a bath and a good detail job so the day after I bought it I spent the best part of ten hours detailing the Connie. A good detail job means more than just a hose job and Armor All.

When I detail a bike I go over, under, around, and through. I take panels off, I have little brushes for getting into recessed areas. After the wash job I rinse it with filtered water and use the air hose to blow water out of the cracks and crevices so there are no unsightly water deposits where no one can actually see. The Concours shone like a new penny when I was done. People who saw it were amazed that it was so clean at 25,xxx miles and after three owners and also how little I paid for such a nice bike.

I rode the Concours a bit during the summer, plotted longer rides but never got around to making them, and generally lost interest in the bike no matter how nice it was.

On my last ride on the Concours I rolled off an easy 200 miles visiting Saguaro National Park and was bored stiff when I got home. Somehow the bike failed to move me to ride further that day even though I had the time and the weather was not excessively hot. Nor did the bike entertain me on shorter rides; the Concours is a bike for rolling up serious miles and it needs a lot of asphalt to show what it's got. Short afternoon hops, which are mostly what I do anymore, seem mundane on the bike. Too much bike, too little road. Or maybe too little rider these days?

So the Concours is gone to a new home in northern Arizona with a fine fellow name Roger who knew a good deal on a clean bike when he saw it. I wish him well. And thanks to my good horse trading skills and my ace detailing I didn't lose any money on this bike.

Now I need to find something else, something that will inspire me to ride and also fits my very meager retired guy budget. Now that I'm retired no monthly payments are allowed. Of course I could go back to work, get another job in order to make the payments on a snazzy new Gold Wing or BMW. I could stick a fork in my head too.

Bike-wise nothing very interesting fits into the budget so I'm thinking maybe just buy an old Sportster, bob it in the current fashion, and start hanging out at the Silver Bullet Tavern down the road just to fill up my spare time. Think "Extreme Makeover: Doug Edition." Something like the little item below from Craig's List comes to mind. Or maybe that would be the final proof that I need to have myself locked away for my own protection?

Saturday, September 19, 2009

Book Review: The Vincent In The Barn

Book Review: "The Vincent In The Barn" by Tom Cotter
Publisher: Motorbooks
Price: $26.00

I was hopeful about "The Vincent In The Barn" because the "I heard about a Vincent/Indian/Harley in a barn" story really is classic story and a common thread in the imaginations of lots of motorcycle guys like myself. I was predisposed to like the book. In fact though, in the book there is no breathless story of finding a Vincent in a barn as the title might lead one to believe. There are mostly just recitations of stories of people, often wealthy collectors, acquiring bikes they already knew or suspected existed or in one case found while looking for a rare automobile. The bikes found in that particular story were merely consolation prizes resold to offset travel expenses in the hunt for the rare car and that is not exactly a story of motorcycle passion and the bringing to light of a two wheeled treasure.

Yes there are stories of Vincents or Indians brought to light and revived but somehow the stories managed to come across more like vintage bike club newsletter stories or perhaps a vintage bike blog entry than "Indiana Jones and the Last Vincent." A few stories have some charm and hit a little closer to home for the average motorcycle guy like one man's search for a Honda of the type his parents owned when they were first married in the early 1960's.

Some stories run just a few short paragraphs, not enough to really hook the reader, and about a third of the way through the book I was losing all interest in reading further but soldiered on hoping to find something truly engaging. In the end I cannot think of a single story of the forty in the book that really sticks in my mind as a "Wow, that was amazing!" tale.

If you are into old bikes you will probably find enough of interest amongst the pages to enjoy the book. It is a nice collection of little stories but I was expecting much more of an epic tale about "the thrill of the hunt" for old motorcycles and their rejuvenation than what "The Vincent In The Barn" delivers.

Wednesday, September 09, 2009

"Sometimes It Is All You Need"

"I rode one across America when I came home from 'Nam!"
"Oh yeah? I rode one over Hitler's foot in WWII!"

A comment that I have heard now and again (sadly, not often enough) about my photographs is "Man, I wish I could take pictures like that!" The next question is "What kind of camera do you use?" The fact of the matter is that unless you are a professional photographer (and I'm not) the camera in use doesn't much matter as long as it is not a seriously crappy bargain basement camera. The eye of the person holding the camera for the scene, the light, and also an understanding of basic rules of composition can make an inexpensive but decent camera look really good.

Point in case is the photo above which not I but my wife took at the vintage bike show earlier this year.* The colors are bright and the view of the two old guys engaged in conversation over an old Harley fairly begs the question "What great stories are they telling?" I think it's a good photo because it's pleasant to look at and invites or tells a story.

The camera used for the photo was e's Olympus FE200 6 mega-pixel point & shoot camera set on full automatic. Not a completely inexpensive camera at $239 but not big dollars either.

Could the picture have been improved? Sure, no photo is perfect and most are far from it. I heard a story once about a fellow asking photographic legend Ansel Adams "Are ALL your photos so perfect?" Adams replied with a chuckle "Believe me, we only print the best ones."

The point is that it was the wife's eye for the scene and the colors that allowed a fairly inexpensive "entry level" point & shoot camera to take a nice photo. Also, had she noodled around worry excessively about the widgets and dials of a fancier camera the moment of the conversation might have been missed. Sometimes quick and simple gets the job done so don't think that you must have a $1500 zillion-megapixel camera to take good photos of your rides and riding buddies. If you happen to be an aspiring photo geek then go ahead and spend the $1500. Tell your wife I said it was ok.

Some points to consider:

A basic camera works fine as long as you are willing to stop for a moment and SEE what you are pointing the camera at. Pay attention to the picture you see in the viewfinder because it's what the camera will record. The guy's head in the very middle of the viewfinder with no legs and a stop sign sticking out of the top of his head is what the camera will record.

Will your $250 point & shoot take as sharp and clear of a picture as a $1000+ Nikon or Canon DSLR camera? Nope, but if you are not going to print your pictures out at 16x20 inches it doesn't really matter. If you only want to post pictures on a website it matters even less.

Generally more expensive cameras from the major makers such as Nikon, Canon, and Olympus will have better quality lenses and light meters. Those two things matter more than the number of megapixels. Personally I think a used Nikon CoolPix 995 with a lowly 3.3 mpx is a better choice than a 10 mpx Acme Plasto-camera. The old Nikon will still have a better quality sensor, lens, and light metering than many new cameras.

Can you get a good quality camera for less than $200? Yes. See above. Visit Ebay.

An expensive camera packed safely away in a saddlebag is worse than a cheap camera within easy reach and actually gets used.

Lots of cameras, even inexpensive ones, have "vibration reduction" built in. That means your hands, still buzzing from hauling butt down the road on your hard tail bobber, will be compensated for by the camera. Get a camera with vibration reduction.

You should learn to use an image editing program like PaintShop Pro or Adobe PhotoShop Elements if for no other reason than your friends will appreciate it when you don't e-mail them twelve 5-megabyte photos in one e-mail. Spend two evenings learning the basics of image cropping and re-sizing. It's worth it. You can also learn to erase that stop sign sticking out of your buddy's helmet.

Back in 2004 I had the fun of working for a week and a half on an automotive press trip in Death Valley, CA for European auto manufacturer Skoda Auto who is a subsidiary of Volkswagen AG. The pool photographer for the trip was Michel De Vries, said to be the top automotive photographer in Europe. Was I doing the happy dance to be able to just work around him and ask questions and make a pest of myself? You bet! At one point in the trip DeVries pulled a small Canon point & shoot camera from his pocket, snapped a couple of photos, and put the camera away. "What up with that?" I asked meaning "Why not the $8000 Canon wonder-camera sitting in the car?" "Sometimes it is all you need" he said patting the camera in his pocket.

*Disclaimer: The photo has been cropped to remove clutter and resized for web display.

Just for reference:

3.1 megapixels, Nikon CoolPix 990. About $75- $150 on Ebay

5 megapixel Olympus FE200 $239

12 megapixels. Nikon D90 $1500

1 megapixel (raw image from the Mars Rover "Spirit")**
**The Mars rovers use a 1 megapixel camera but it's a perfect 1 megapixel. You can't afford it.

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